Saturday, September 30, 2006

These Boots are Made For Walkin'

Octopusses apparently are starting to walk upright. Well, not exactly upright, but they are walking on two of their appendages and using the rest as camouflage. They're bundling themselves up and heading off down the road. They seem to be quite good at it.
Octopuses normally travel along the ocean floor using all or many of their eight arms in a sort of crawl. Their muscles are supported by fluid and not bone. Using underwater video, the scientists analyzed the strides of Octopus marginatus and Octopus aculeatus. For both species, each walking arm stayed in contact with the sandy ocean floor for more than half of the stride, qualifying the pitter patter of two octopus arms as official walking.
If you've got IE or Firefox, you can see the video here. It's really...odd. But then again, octopusses are actualy quite smart, can solve puzzles, and are capable of some astounding feats of agility. [from May2005, found after 'random google page']

Friday, September 29, 2006

Interesting Day

Well, the Adorable Husband has been in (and back out) of the hospital today -- and been zapped twice to get his heart rate back into order.

He went out walking on Friday at lunchtime and by the time he was heading home, still felt "odd". When he tried to check his pulse, it was very, very irregular (think synocopated) and he still felt as if he'd just finished a bout of exercise -- kind of short-of-breath, kind of wobbly. He headed back into work and ran an EKG on himself (benefit of working in the cath lab) and promptly walked upstairs to the cardiologists office.

He was having a bout of Atrial Fibrillation -- basically the atria (upper chambers of the heart) stop beating properly and just sort of quiver instead of staying in synch with the rest of the heartbeat, so it doesn't pump effectively. His pulse ran up to about 120-140 and hung out there, beating irregularly. More info here at medicinenet and another from a patient's FAQ.

Anyway, they sent him HOME! With a beta-blocker to see if it would resolve over night on its own. I spent the whole night waking up every hour or so and checking that he was ok. Well, he didn't "convert" on his own overnight, so we headed into the hospital this morning for cardioversion. Anesthesist showed up, doped him into a stupor, and they connected pads to his chest and back and -- ZAP. Just like what you see on television with the paddles, but with a bit more control. I didn't watch (everyone unanimously decided that it was not something a non-medical person should see their spouse go through) but got the play-by-play afterwards.

Mark's co-workers were half-jokingly drawing straws to decide who got to "push the button" -- in the end, Dean did it -- twice. The first zap didn't get his rhythm back in line, the second did. His heart never stopped or anything -- the electric impulses just got screwed up and needed to be shocked back into the right rhythm. Apparently, this is not uncommon. He had an echocardiogram afterwards to ensure that there was nothing wrong with his heart and that no clots had formed while he was fibrillating (the risk was very low). Sent off with a clean bill of health.

He recovered pretty quickly and other than being loopy as hell, is fine. Came home and napped, and is back ot his old self again today. I was way more freaked out than he was, of course -- the Central Tenet of the Universe that Revolves Around Me is that nothing is allowed to happen to the Adorable Husband. This was a bit scary, if not directly life-threatening. They're going to keep an eye on him for a while to see if it happens again, otherwise, they'll probably write it off as a fluke.

Thursday, September 28, 2006


More likely to win passage by the end of the week is Bush's other legislative priority: a bill agreed upon by the White House, the House and Senate governing how terror suspects are to be detained and questioned.
Well, no, not really. The bill was not "agreed upon by the White House, the House and Senate" . That is a gross distortion.

It was agreed on by the White House and the Republican members of the relevant House and Senate committees.

Some 'compromise', eh?

That's what I meant to say...

It should be no surprise to anyone that I'm an atheist, and left any sort of religious belief behind nearly 30 years ago. For the most part, while I'm keenly interested in why other people have religious beliefs, it's not something I have anything in common with.

One of the hardest things about being non-religious is that I'm often questioned as to why I don't believe this or that, or accused of some sort of dire and evil agenda, or faced with a demand as to why I "hate religion". I've never been very good at being able to articulate that without coming across as attacking the person who asked, or expressing my very deep frustration with religion in a way that effectively squelches reasonable discussion. (In some ways, I don't believe it is possible for a person of faith and a nonbeliever to have a reasonable discussion about religion - in most cases, reason has little to do with religious belief, 'faith' being the basis for that belief. That is not an indictment of either believer or non-believer, just recognizing that there is little common ground there.)

Sam Harris, author of The End of Faith, an interesting discussion of the concept of 'religious tolerance' and why tolerance of other religions is one of the primary fuels for terrorism (you can find it here -- it's a bit of a dry read, really, but interesting nonetheless) has written a short, pithy commentary on religion in modern life - Letter to a Christian Nation -- which manages to express my views on religion, morality, belief, and the power of reason so much more clearly than I have ever been able to do to it.

Undoubtedly, the book will offend or bother some people; indeed, some analogies that Harris uses are provacative, but this short book is really a must-read. His premise that blind faith in religion is unreasonable, unncessary, faulty, and dangerous is presented clearly and supported with well-reasoned arguments. Those who dismiss this book may fall into the very group he addresses: people who are so mired in dogma and blind faith that any contrary idea is seen as an attack.

Atheism is not a single set of ideas, of course (and is constantly mischaracterized by others), but when we try to explain why we do not believe, why we reject the tenets of religion, these are the reasons for most of us. Whether you agree or not, I think that the book is worth the hour or so it takes to read. Will is change anyone's mind? Probably not. But it will (hopefully) make everyone think.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

My Condolences

The 2008 GOP Convention is in the Twin Cities.

And it's going to coincide with the Minnesota State Fair.

I hate political ads, so my condolences to all my family in the midwest, who will be subject to the full force of the political machine aimed at 'states in play'.

It's Super-Prude

Apparently a teacher in Frisco, TX has been suspended and reprimanded because a parent complained that their child was exposed to -- gasp!-- nude art while on a field trip to the Dallas Museum of Art in April.

Oh, what shall we do? We must protect the children at all costs from seeing nude art, omigod. Can't have that.

McGee has said her troubles started after taking 89 students on a school field trip to the Dallas Museum of Art in April.

The principal at Fisher elementary, Nancy Lawson, later admonished McGee about the trip, telling her a parent complained about a student seeing nude art, said Dunn, a Dallas labor lawyer.

School officials didn't reveal which parent made the complaint.

McGee also said it was the principal who urged her to take the students to the museum, Dunn said.

I want to know which parents. I really do. What adult found the thought of nude art for fifth-graders so horrible, so unimaginable, that they complained to the school. That's almost laughable, if it wasn't so pitiful. These are people who see any possible exposure of the human body as bad and dirty and wrong. And if they had a reason for finding it so bad (for example a muslim rule against female nudity or something - which I imagine the paper would have mentioned) then they should have investigated the museum before allowing their kid to go on the field trip. What adult doesn't know that art sometimes involves people without their clothes on?

And these are TEN-YEAR-OLDs. What could possibly be on display at an art museum that would be so awful that you complained that your ten-year-old child was "exposed" to it? As far as I can tell from the Dallas Museum website, it's run-of-the-mill artistic nudes. There's no six-foot penis sculpture in the lobby, no life-sized full-color models of genitalia or wild orgy scenes. No Mapplethorpes. Just bare breasts on a statue here and there, or a male nude figure with small penis in repose. The stuff that graces every single art musuem in the country.

That's taking prudery to a level I can't quite imagine. And the school board voted not to renew this teachers contract -- she's been teaching 28 years. Welcome to the new puritanism.

Are things better now?

A summary here.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Lycra-Clad Road Warriors

Apparently, wearing a helmet while cycling is actually more dangerous than not wearing one -- cars see a helmet, assume you're a "road warrior" and pass close enough to shave a few years off your life.

Using data from 2500 encounters with cars while cycling in England, Dr. Walker has determined that drivers cut it awfully close in some cases. Based on whether you are a woman or a man, and whether you are wearing a helmet or not, drivers either give you a wide berth, or cut in close -- an average of 3 1/2" from a helmeted male rider!

Now, Dr. Walker doesn't really suggest that cyclists should not wear helmets, but he does point out that wearing one actually increases your changes of getting hit by a car, in which case a helmet is of limited use anyways.

I do wonder if the same results would be found here in the US, where we have wider roads and in many places have wide shoulders to ride on. The UK seems to have much narrower roads with less room for cyclists in general.

Geneva CYA

Read the draft of the bill here. Lovely little addition here, don't you think?

(a) IN GENERAL. No person may invoke the Geneva Conventions or any protocols thereto in any habeas or civil action or proceeding to which the United States, or a current or former officer, employee, member of the Armed Forces, or other agent of the United States, is a party as a source of rights, in any court of the United States or its States or territories.
All the while claiming that this doesn't abrogate responsibilities to the Geneva Convention by the US. This is nothing but CYA for past behavior, and should be villified as such. We're supposed to be the good guys?

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Norwegian Farmhouse Architecture

I'm working my way through guidebooks from Rough Guide for Norway and Sweden (and Scandinavia, apparently they have glumped them together for at least one book) and I'm discovering some very interesting bits of trivia.

Many tourist sites recreate the "Norwegian Farmhouse" experience, by either building from scratch, or moving to the location, the various farm buildings and houses from a rural farm. And, or course, many farms exist in the rural areas of Norway. One of the common characteristics of these farms is that they are made up of many smaller buildings -- a main house, a storehouse or two, a small barn, a hay barn, hen coop, a horse stall, a shed for farm implements, another store house, perhaps a boat house or smoking shed. The cluster of small buildings is apparently a quintissential Norwegian farmyard trait.

Why so many buildings? Well, traditional architecture is cog-jointed logs (like Lincoln Logs, really) that are notched and joined at the corners, making square or rectangular buildings. Of course, they were limited in size to the length of the logs being used -- one log per side, of whatever length they could garner useable wood. Buildings were not large -- and it was obviously much easier to build many smaller buildings than manage the joins in a larger building.

Which is the reason (in a convoluted way) that Norway has the interesting and unqiue Stave Churches -- 29 remain in Norway. In order to make buildings larger than a single span of a log, timbers are placed vertically into the ground (entirely different than the log-bonding that Norwegian farmers used to make outbuildings) with upright beams at the corners (the staves) The walls are upright planks set into sills on the top and bottom, much like panels in a door. The sills are joined pieces of wood that can be much longer than a single piece of timber, and can be built into any shape that can be defined by corner staves.

Of course, Stave Churches have many other unique characteristics, including fantastical carvings, paintings, and other decorations, but they arrived in Norwegian Architectuure because of a limitation in the traditional building style used by local farmers. Logs were too short to build an impressive church, so they had to improvise.

More on Norwegian Architecture here.

Maybe the Cutest Puppy. Ever.

OK, I ran across this poppet and now I need to quit my job, buy a puppy, and spend the whole day watching it. Seriously.

This is One. Cute. Puppy.

[picture from]

Just a rosy picture, eh?

National Intelligence Estimate: "the Iraq war has made the overall terrorism problem worse."
D'oh! Let the spin begin.

Now I'm just waiting for the focus to shift from the actual problem to prosecution of the leakers and publishers of the document. I figure by tomorrow that will be the lead story -- how publishing this information supports all those terrorists. More at Fox News

Friday, September 22, 2006

Backwards Innnovation

Ok, the Wienermobile has been souped up, and Oscar Meyer is touting their new "fast franks" as the solution to after-school snacks. A hotdog, in a bun, all microwaveable! Oh, what shall they think of next?

Here's the blurb:
It’s mouthwatering to imagine -- a tasty, hot and juicy Oscar Mayer hot dog wrapped inside a soft and warm bakery-fresh bun. And now imagine only having to wait thirty-five seconds for that first delicious bite.
Oookay. Well, I always eat my hotdogs (not Oscar Meyer, but Nathans) in a bun, and I'm certainly not waiting more than 35 seconds for it. Just how do they think people are preparing hotdogs? And just what fabulous "time savings" are they actually providing by removing that oh-so-onerous task of actually putting the hotdog in the bun by ourselves. Oh, the humanity!

They go on to wax rhapsodic about the warm, bakery-fresh bun and how "Preparation is easy, and there's no cook top mess or boiling water." Huh? Prepapration was hard before? These are hotdogs, people. Not coq-au-vin.

I have to wonder exactly what century are the marketing drones living in. Do you know anyone who actually boils a hotdog nowadays? I, like everyone else, microwave my hotdog (for about 30 seconds), pop in a bun, and go. This is not rocket science.

However, by trading off the two separate steps of heating the hotdog and then the bun for a single-step process, Oscar Meyer believes that they have made this easier and are saving me time. Well, all I can imagine from microwaving a bun is a soggy, steamy bun. They claim they are "leveraging proprietary dough technology" to avoid this. I just had to laugh. I didn't realize that this was a serious enough problem to warrant scientific study and extensive research.

I'm sure it appeals to people who want things "instantly" and want to expend no effort to get things. I mean, I love to have things "easy" -- who doesn't? -- but I can't see how this actually addressed a pressing need to save us time or effort. It might actually be harder -- you have to unwrap the hermetically sealed cellophane baggies, and carefully time the steamed-bun process. Ok, maybe it doesn't involve a paper towel to wrap your hotdog in. That might be the sum of the savings right there.

Talk about filling a niche that doesn't actually exist.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Setting a Good Example

During his speech at the UN, Venezuelan leader Hugo Chaves said that US President Bush was "the devil" and proceeded to roundly criticize US, UN, and world policy.

His words -- and the half-joking reference to the podium carrying a whiff of sulphur -- have been decried as arrogant, unfitting of a leader, rude. He was out of line, Condi Rice said, and various talking heads have been discussing his obviously uncivilized behavior.

But, you know? People in glass houses shouldn't throw stones. Bush has used every speech in the last few years to call other world leaders evil, fascist, evildoers, whatever the buzzword of the week is. Frankly, this is a well-deserved dose of his own medicine.
"...Given the administration's propensity to call other governmental leaders evil, fascist and Hitler-esque, was Chavez's speech really such a radical departure from what has become a routine standard of political discourse between nations? ..."
That's our Bush....lowering standards all over the planet.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006



Get your pirate on!

Truth in Advertising

From the Economist: Finally! Truth in advertising. If airlines were honest, here's how it would go:
“GOOD morning, ladies and gentlemen. We are delighted to welcome you aboard Veritas Airways, the airline that tells it like it is. Please ensure that your seat belt is fastened, your seat back is upright and your tray-table is stowed. At Veritas Airways, your safety is our first priority. Actually, that is not quite true: if it were, our seats would be rear-facing, like those in military aircraft, since they are safer in the event of an emergency landing. But then hardly anybody would buy our tickets and we would go bust.

Your life-jacket can be found under your seat, but please do not remove it now. In fact, do not bother to look for it at all. In the event of a landing on water, an unprecedented miracle will have occurred, because in the history of aviation the number of wide-bodied aircraft that have made successful landings on water is zero. This aircraft is equipped with inflatable slides that detach to form life rafts, not that it makes any difference. Please remove high-heeled shoes before using the slides. We might as well add that space helmets and anti-gravity belts should also be removed, since even to mention the use of the slides as rafts is to enter the realm of science fiction.

Please switch off all mobile phones, since they can interfere with the aircraft's navigation systems. At least, that's what you've always been told. The real reason to switch them off is because they interfere with mobile networks on the ground, but somehow that doesn't sound quite so good. On most flights a few mobile phones are left on by mistake, so if they were really dangerous we would not allow them on board at all, if you think about it. We will have to come clean about this next year, when we introduce in-flight calling across the Veritas fleet. At that point the prospect of taking a cut of the sky-high calling charges will miraculously cause our safety concerns about mobile phones to evaporate.
Read the whole article here: It's a hoot.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Religious Fanatics

Last week, the Pope quoted a Byzantine emperor while expressing his opinions about Islam during a speech. A veritable storm of criticism has erupted.

"He said, I quote, 'Show me just what Mohammed brought that was new, and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached.'"

He has since apologized, and the vatican has spent quite a lot of time trying to spin this. The Pope is saying he doesn't share this opinion, and that it was a poor choice of words. But he also has said that he doesn't believe that Islam can be "reformed". And yet he didn't intend to insult Muslims, of course.

These are not off-the-cuff remarks, the Pope knows that leaders and peoples worldwide listen to him -- whether they are Roman Catholic or not, the Pope is seen as an important world figure. His words are carefully planned, carefully written. If these are not his personal opinions, he is still the primary voice of the RC church and the views are those espoused by the church. What did he think was going ot happen when he suggested that Islam is "evil"?

And he is willfully ignoring (or denying) the fact that the Christian church has often spread it's own faith by the sword.

Do people forget the crusades? Do people think that the friars who accompanies the Spanish to the Americas converted the Indians by reasoned debates and loving hands? Do people really believe that the missionary Christians in Asia and Africa were great humanitarians rather than the foot soldiers of imperialism?

And the response of Muslim extremists to the comments? Even less reasoned and less acceptable. Burning effigies, protesting, and even threats that the west must convert or "die by the sword". Yup, that's the way to convince the world that Islam is indeed a peaceful religion.

The fanatics in charge, the tiny sliver of religious leadership that is extreme and inflexible (and yes, the players here on both sides, Christian and Muslim, are fanatics) are trying to create a world of religious polarization and intolerance. How is that going to improve things in the world?

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Wine Lovely Wine

The Festival was fabulous! Perfect weather, lovely food -- a very enjoyable weekend. We started with a Winemakers dinner (lessee-- Salmon Seviche and a lovely Sauvignon Blanc, Spring Greens with a Champagne Vinaigrette and a Chardonnay, Orange Sorbet and a german-style Gewurtztraiminer, Elk filets and a Cabernet Sauvignon, and a lovely dark port with Chocolate mousse...luckily we didn't have to drive anywhere..the wine-fairy was very good.)

Nearly 7000 people mobbed the park, and tasted 200 wines from 43 wineries. It was spectacular. We met some lovely people from Utah and Colorado Springs, as well as some recent arrivals from Connecticut -- we sat and enjoyed gourmet food and tasted wine all afternoon. One winery that we had enjoyed before was not at the festival -- a call on Sunday morning revealed that they had not come because they had simpy sold out of all of their wines. They had only a few cases left, and were willing to part with a few of the bottles they'd set aside for themselves, if we made the trek out to their vineyard. Yeah! We sat and tasted their wines on the front porch for almost two hours, chatting with the owners and enjoying the perfect, blue-sky day.

We got a lovely trip through Grand Mesa -- the Aspens are just turning and the light at sunset is absolutely luminous. We had a second trip through the "scenic byway" when a rockslide blocked part of I-70. It took almost six hours to get home!

Friday, September 15, 2006

WIne Weekend

We're off to the Colorado Wine Festival this weekend (actually, leaving in about 20 minutes!) to enjoy tasting wines from 30+ Colorado wineries, eating gourmet food, and generally enjoying the festivities.

Back on Sunday to let you know how it goes!

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Why I Hate Configuration

Here's a quick test for anyone interested. Do you see the difference between:
Yeah, that pesky forward-slash caused about three hours of problems today. The tools that I'm trying to configure require the forward slash, while the default file is created with a backslash.

Yes, I love my job! Hah!


Chile, which has a truly appalling teenage pregnancy problem, has finally addressed the issue -- they have made birth control free for every girl over 14. EC will be publically available for all women, free of charge, and without interference.

It's about time.

You know, I even agree with the statements from Catholic church and local religious conservatives who say that we need to address the problem at it's core: teach these young people that having sex is not something they should be doing at the age of 14 (which nearly 14% do), and counseling them to wait - but I also 100% agree that dealing with the reality of the problem right now -- a runaway number of unwanted pregnancies and abortions -- is the correct first step.

The Catholic church -- which wields a tremendous amount of power in Chile -- has already come out to criticize the law for the same reasons that religious groups criticize similiar ideas here: it will "encourage" young people to have sex. I've never understood that particular argument, since it simply defies logic and the reality of people's behaviors. No, teaching them to protect themselves doesn't urge them to have sex, and it certainly doesn't give them the idea that you think it's OK. Making contraception available doesn't even affect the numbers of people having sex -- it simply means that those who do, will do so safely. I, like many of my peers, had more detailed information about sex, contraception, conception, and STDs than I probably wanted to know; my parents were very upfront about all of it. They were also up front about the responsbilities involved, and that they strongly discouraged me to start experimenting until I was much older (for my father, I think the correct age would have been 30!). I got the message.

Knowledge is power, not encouragement.

The President of Chile, Bachelet (who is a pediatrician) said this:
"The obligation of the state is to provide alternatives, and the obligation of families, of each one of us, is to communicate with our children, explain things to them, and to teach them."
Yes. This. Exactly. Now I can only wait until we manage to be as enlightened here.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

OS Hell

I write software for a living. I design systems. You'd think I could do something as simple as install an OS on a new computer.

Apparently not. I hate hardware and now, I hate Operating System installs.

The new (old, really -- a refurb from Dell that I got just to tinker with) machine came with Windows XP Home. I initially wanted to have at least Win XP Pro. Simple upgrade, right?

Nope. Insert disk, wait for interminable hardware checking, Copy some files. Then it announces that it 'cannot detect a hard drive'. Wha? It was there a minute ago! And now, since it got through part of the install, it give me the blue screen of death each time I try to boot off the installation cd. Well, that's not good. I manage to get it back to booting ont he still-extant Win XP installation. Good.

Searching Google suggests that it is a driver problem for the 160 gig SATA drive. Great! THe solution is to interrupt the installation and load the drivers from a floppy disk.

Um. I don't have a floppy drive, and at this point in the installation, I can't get the machine to recognize a usb drive, either. Hm.

After quick consultation with a coworker, he recommends installing WIndows 2003 server instead. Ok. Get out disks, load. Wait. Wait. Wait. 'cannot detect hard drive'. Well, at least we know it's not a specific XP problem! Now the machine won't boot at all, and seems to think it has three separate installations in the boot menu, only one of which works at all.

I know it's an issue iwth drivers or recognition or something with the SATA drivers, but I have no idea what to doa bout it. But wait! Thsi is a BRAND NEW machine. It's still under warranty and helpdesk coverage!

At this point, I surrender. I do a live chat with Dell, spent two hours IM-ing them to help me reset the bios on the machine, change the RAID setup of the drive, and then -- much fun -- when it comes up ready to install WIndows XP Home again, the technicial cheerily informs me that 'it's recognizing the drive now -- the install should be clean. Thanks for calling Dell!"

I abort the XP Home install and boot fromt he Win Server 2003 disk and run through the install. I reformat the C:\ drive (which takes over an hour because I didn't do a "quick" drive format) and then, 7/8 of the way through, it announces it 'cannot copy file blah blah blah' -- or any of the subsequent files, either. Well, I"ll show you, you finicky piece of shit. Restart the installation, tell it to delete absolutely everything, and it finally boots.

Which is when I remember that I absolutely despite Win Server 2003. I dont' need the functioanlity of a print server or other "role", I don't want ot have to tell it why I'm shutting down, and I don't want to have to manage it. I just want a standalone machine that I can install Oracle on and make it work. I don't even know how to get the bloody thing to "share" drives. Well, fine!

Scrunch the 2003 install into a small partition, make a new one (after installing Partition Magic and making changes) and start the install of WIndows XP pro, which is what I wanted to do in the first place. It's also barfed when installing the first time. But it boots up now!

I hate mucking about with tehe buts of my machine. This is why.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Retinal Scans

I've been getting a ton of nonsensical comments and weird spam in the blog -- so I finally turned on the pattern-recongition thingy for all comments. Sorry about that. I love all the comments, and I hate making it more annoying to add them.

Next step - blood tests and retinal scans....

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Ultimate Computer Accessory

I may never have to leave my desk again. CoolIT systems has developed a personal cooling plate that plugs into a USB port on your computer, and cools to 45 degrees. Set a glass down and voila! Cool drink. And it's computer-powered.

There have been cup heaters forever, but finally, something for those of us that think hot beverages are gross.

And you can find it at Amazon.

Barbie Does Yard Cleanup

This may be a sign of the apocalypse...or some sort of weird, Mattel in-joke. But Barbie has a new companion -- a golden retriever puppy named Tanner.

Oh, our favorite plastic doll has had pets in the past, but this one is special. This one poops.

Seriously. You poke special plastic biscuits into its mouth, and out they come from the other end, ready to be picked up by Barbie's special magnetic pooper-scooper. Because, be honest I have no idea.

[Edited to add: yes, as far as I can tell the biscuits go in and come out in the same form. So, no little kids will have to "refill" the puppy's butt with plastic poop. That's the first thing the Adorable Husband asked!]

Discouraging Door-to-Door

From a friend on TT--

The annals of Wiccan folklore are rife with tales of discouraging door-to-door proselytizers, but perhaps the funniest story comes from my Society for Creative Anachronism friends. Someone, somewhere, had gathered a bunch of friends to go to a Viking themed event and they were all in the living room putting on their gear when the Jehovah's Witnesses rang. The Viking who opened the door yelled back into the house, "Hey boys! We got CHRISTIANS!"

Friday, September 08, 2006

Well, it is NOW

From Bush recently --
How can Iraq be a connection when Saddam Hussein didn't order the attacks?"
And you know, I understand that concern, because he didn't order the attacks. The enemy, however, believes that Iraq is a part of the war on terror. Osama bin Laden has called Iraq central to the war on terror.
Yeah, clueless, they do now. Because you made it that way.

The senate committe report is a bit clearer -Hussein viewed al-Qaida as a threat.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Cayenne Cocktail

Uulaq is a baaad dog this week.

We have a drainspout on the back porch that actually goes underground to a pvc pipe, then comes back up to the surface at the bottom of the yard. There's a filter/cap on the end of the upturned pipe, so when it rains, the water can drain out into the grass, away from the patio.

Well, Uulaq discovered that if she pulled off the cover, she can drink the disgusting, greenish, stagnant water that sits in the pipe (we haven't had rain in a while). She has clean water available, of course, but seems to prefer this icky stuff.

After a few rounds of putting the cover back, the Adorable Husband went out and secured it with a few screws. No way the dog could pull it off. I predicted that it would just be an escalation in the attempts to get at the water -- and I was right. It took all of an hour for her to realize that the green cover wasn't going to come off any more, so she simply dug up the end of the pipe and pulled off the ell entirely. I looked outside to see the beastie drinking water out of the huge hole, with the cover -- and it's securely-attached-screwed-on-pipe -- flipped up into the grass.

Next round -- concrete. The Husband dug out underneah the pipe, put in some brackets to hold it down, and poured concrete around the whole thing (with a new, screwed-down cover). Well, Uulaq was out there before the concrete dried, trying to dig it up. She managed to eat the middle out of the cover and gouge the concrete pretty well.

The Adorable Husband was out there last night with about a cup of cayenne pepper, to mix into the sludgy water. Hopefully she gets a snootful and decides that it's not worth digging up again.

Probably not. She'll probably just think, "hm. Rather zesty today, isn't it?" and keep right on going. I can't decide if she's smart, stupid, or just determined.

Blind Partisanship

Apparently, the strong block of southern women voteres who got Bush elected in 2004 aren't quite so happy with their golden boy nowadays. His insistence on staying the course in Iraq has got some of them thinking. Support has dropped to just 28% among women (32% among southern women) for him in his handling of the war on Iraq. They are angry and concerned that there isn't really a plan. This mirrors the general attitude of most Americans, if current polling is to be believed.

However, what caught my eye about the article is that there are people out there (and I can't name one, so where are all these people?) who believe that Bush is God's anointed one.
Still, some Southern women remain stalwart supporters of the president and the Republican Party. At a watermelon festival in Chickamauga, in the mountains of northwest Georgia, substitute teacher Clydeen Tomanio said she remains committed to the party she's called home for 43 years.

"There are some people, and I'm one of them, that believe George Bush was placed where he is by the Lord," Tomanio said. "I don't care how he governs, I will support him. I'm a Republican through and through."
You don't care what he does, you don't care how he manages things, but you'll vote for him because he mouths the same platitudes you hear in church (whether he actually believes them or not). The fact that he says the right things, but doesn't actually do them doesn't seem to be important.

So, stupid and -- incomprehensibly -- proud of it.

Well, I'm the Queen of Sheba. I expect that she'll be sending tribute to me soon. It must be true. I said it. Wait! Wait! Isn't that how it works?

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Par for the Course

I've made a point to avoid every 9/11-themed movie. I have no desire to see a dramatization of events, since they are always colored by some political motivations of either the left- or right-leaning variety. The latest "docudrama", Path to 9/11, is just the latest in a long string of revisioninst history retellings of the incident. The web is abuzz about the show (which has not yet aired, btw) because of transcripts of several scenes which purport to show that Clinton failed to act to capture/kill Bin Laden when CIA were on the ground in Afghanistan, ready to do so, and thus opened the way for the attack in New York.

The problem? The scene -- which makes the incendiary claim that the Clinton administration passed on a surefire chance to kill or catch bin Laden — never happened. It is entirely fiction, made up by the author.

The actual history is quite different. According to the 9/11 Commission Report (pg. 199), then-CIA Director George Tenet had the authority from President Clinton to kill Bin Laden. Roger Cressy, former NSC director for counterterrorism, has written, “Mr. Clinton approved every request made of him by the CIA and the U.S. military involving using force against bin Laden and al-Qaeda.”
In fact, Richard Clarke, former counterterrorism czar for Bush I, Clinton and Bush II, has weighed in on the scene and has this to say:

1. Contrary to the movie, no US military or CIA personnel were on the ground in Afghanistan and saw bin Laden.

2. Contrary to the movie, the head of the Northern Alliance, Masood, was no where near the alleged bin Laden camp and did not see UBL.

3. Contrary to the movie, the CIA Director actually said that he could not recommend a strike on the camp because the information was single sourced and we would have no way to know if bin Laden was in the target area by the time a cruise missile hit it.

The movie is sounding more and more like a carefully orchestrated fictional account meant to make the current president look good and boost ratings around election time. Hey, if we can continue to blame Clinton, then Bush is doing the right thing, right? But like most of the rhetoric surrounding "blame" for 9/11, this is based on lies and distortions.

If ABC airs this "documentary" as is -- on Sep 10th and 11th, to maximize impact, of course -- and shows this as "factual" what they are in fact doing is misleading the public and attempting to sway public opinion by whitewashing the errors and failures in intelligent in the Bush administration that led to 9/11 and "enhancing" the truth about the errors and failures in the Clinton adminsitration. The movie contradicts the findings on the 9/11 commission, on which is supposed to be based. Cherry picking the "facts" is dishonest and manipulative. It is even more dishonest and manipulative to air the show now, with the rhetoric of the war-on-terror being ratcheted up for the election season, knowing that there are discrepencies and a declared bias.

Even the director of the movie admits that the movie is not a documentary. ABC should be airing dislcaimers to that effect during the showing. Most people will only see the movie and accept that is is a documentary-- an objective telling of the events -- and swallow it hook, line, and sinker. Given the importance of the topic, people deserve the truth, at the very least. Present the facts; we can make up our own minds who is "at fault", if anyone.

You can send a note to ABC about this issue from ThinkProgress. I won't be watching, in any case. I can read the 9/11 commission report and get the real data.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006


Ok, is there something about a Harley Davidson motorcyle that requires that they be revved for twenty minutes before riding?

Two of our neighbors have Harleys (for a total of three bikes in our culdesac). Every single time they go out riding -- which tends to start fairly early in the morning on nice days -- they start up the bikes and then apparently sit there, revving the damn things for fifteen minutes or more.

It's LOUD. It sounds vaguely like a huge animal with bad gas. I just don't get it. Well, I don't get the weird fascination people have these loud, obnoxious bikes anyways, but the start-it-up-and-rev-it-loudly is even more of a puzzle to me. Is it some sort of mating call to let all the other Harley riders out there know that you are joining the pack today?

Now, they are nice neighbors, and we like them just fine. I'm just puzzled by this seeming need to "warm up" the bikes on these lovely autumn days.

A Cruel Joke

EMERGING FROM a meeting with his economic team at Camp David on Aug. 18, President Bush declared that "solid economic growth is creating real benefits for American workers and families." This assertion was false. Mr. Bush should use this Labor Day to rethink his rhetoric and adjust his policies. (The Washington Post)
Here's the reality: corporate profits are the highest they've been since the mid-60s, and actual income for workers has dropped. The "economic growth" since 2001 has had little or no effect on the average worker -- in fact, they are worse off now than they were then. In every single state, real wages have dropped since 2001. Every. Single. State.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Parade of Homes

We caught the last day of the Denver Parade of Homes in Reunion (a planned community out by the airport). We usually try to at least walk through the houses each year -- the decorating ideas are great, and it's fun to see the 1-2 million dollar houses and drool over the luxury items.

This year, there was one absolutely fabulous stand-out in the six houses on the parade -- the Grand Cannoli --yes, named after Italian sweets -- but it was absolutely jaw-droppingly gorgeous. The other houses had some nifty features (a nice theater here, a cool wine cellar, basement bar, etc) but this house was stunning, top to bottom. The Tuscan-style house has open courtyards, lots of indoor-outdoor spaces, and a truly amazing, two-tier kitchen. I'm in love. I'm especially in love with the his-and-hers bathroom (on the bottom of the floorplan above) and the vaulted kitchen -- it has a "back kitchen" and a "front kitchen".

Of course, I don't have a cool 2 million to move in. Sigh.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Ghetto Bathroom Chic

Well, I am in trouble. Nin is still speaking to me, but after the debacle that was painting her bathroom, I'm a little surprised.

She picked this lovely cranberry color for the bathroom walls -- great, rich, color. Home Depot sold us 'Kitchen and Bathroom' paint, which is some sort of special gloss paint with mildew and mold resistance. Ok, it's a bathroom and she doesn't have an exhaust fan. Good plan.

Well, not so good. First off, it went on like glaze instead of paint. Almost transparent. Now, red paint has a tendency to do this. WIth all the pigment required to make red, the paint is thin and often requires 3-4 coats to cover, even over tinted primer. But this was like watercolors. We think it had something to do with the extra glossiness and additives. So -- many coats.

We did two coats while we were there, and she did another two coats. Looked pretty good. But when she tried to put up the shower curtain rod or pull off the masking tape....huge sheets of paint came off, too. It was all weird and rubbery and she could separate it from the wall in great hunks. Just brushing against the wall sometimes took off big pieces of paint.

Which also pulled off the previous coat of paint, the one beneath that, and in some cases chunks of the wallboard or plaster beneath it. It was a a horror show. The whole room started to look like it had shredded.

What we think happened (in retrospect) was that the previous owner, in a fit of home-improvement to sell the house, had painted a new layer of OIL-based semi-gloss over a layer of LATEX semi-gloss without priming or doing any prep. It just peeled off like skin, according to Nin. When we added another layer of paint, which should have been fine, it just glommed on to the top layer of oil paint and then the whole shebang just sort of slid off the wall.

So, she has a bathroom that has bits of red, bits of cream, bits of blue, places where the wallboard has come off in chunks, and places where the plaster is crumbly. But, because she needs to use the bathroom, she has put up the mirror and lights and (to my amusement) put up the pictures in the bathroom. She has been laughing that it's ghetto chic, and should just spray a layer of lacquer over the top and live with it.

She's going ot have to skim coat the wall, possibly more than once, prime and then repaint. What a pain in the ass. Welcome to Home Ownership!

Ghetto Bathroom Chic

Well, I am in trouble. Nin is still speaking to me, but after the debacle that was painting her bathroom, I'm a little surprised.

She picked this lovely cranberry color for the bathroom walls -- great, rich, color. Home Depot sold us 'Kitchen and Bathroom' paint, which is some sort of special gloss paint with mildew and mold resistance. Ok, it's a bathroom and she doesn't have an exhaust fan. Good plan.

Well, not so good. First off, it went on like glaze instead of paint. Almost transparent. Now, red paint has a tendency to do this. WIth all the pigment required to make red, the paint is thin and often requires 3-4 coats to cover, even over tinted primer. But this was like watercolors. We think it had something to do with the extra glossiness and additives. So -- many coats.

We did two coats while we were there, and she did another two coats. Looked pretty good. But when she tried to put up the shower curtain rod or pull off the masking tape....huge sheets of paint came off, too. It was all weird and rubbery and she could separate it from the wall in great hunks. Just brushing against the wall sometimes took off big pieces of paint.

Which also pulled off the previous coat of paint, the one beneath that, and in some cases chunks of the wallboard or plaster beneath it. It was a a horror show. The whole room started to look like it had shredded.

What we think happened (in retrospect) was that the previous owner, in a fit of home-improvement to sell the house, had painted a new layer of OIL-based semi-gloss over a layer of LATEX semi-gloss without priming or doing any prep. It just peeled off like skin, according to Nin. When we added another layer of paint, which should have been fine, it just glommed on to the top layer of oil paint and then the whole shebang just sort of slid off the wall.

So, she has a bathroom that has bits of red, bits of cream, bits of blue, places where the wallboard has come off in chunks, and places where the plaster is crumbly. But, because she needs to use the bathroom, she has put up the mirror and lights and (to my amusement) put up the pictures in the bathroom. She has been laughing that it's ghetto chic, and should just spray a layer of lacquer over the top and live with it.

She's going ot have to skim coat the wall, possibly more than once, prime and then repaint. What a pain in the ass. Welcome to Home Ownership!

Friday, September 01, 2006

The Great Book Migration

The basement has been finished for a few weeks now (finally!) and I have all these lovely bookshelves to fill down there. When I mentioned this to a friend, he sighed and pointed out how much work it was going to be. And exercise, he said helpfully, from hauling all those books down the stairs.

Well, I have a two-wheeler for that. But as for me, I look on this as a great Reorganization and Classification Opportunity. Which books shall I move downstairs? Just the new ones, willy nilly? Or perhaps all the travel books, or language books and dictionaries? Maybe the history books or home improvement books? Technical books? Fiction?

Ooh, the possibilities are endless! It's a chance to actually go through the books and organize them, since with the roughly 70' of new shelving, it is quite likely that every book will have shelfspace (as opposed to the current model, where nearly every horizontal surface has a book or two piled on it).

Personally, I like the 'books everywhere' decorating plan. But, it does get a bit overwhelming, and the Adorable Husband has begun to fidget and twitch when the piles get too high. He, of course, laughed heartily at my obvious excitement about going through the books once again. Because, of course, I have already gone through ALL the books in the house to scan them into Book Collector and track them by title, cover picture, etc. He's joking that I'll have them Dewey-decimalized by the time I'm done.

Obviously, I'm a repressed Librarian. I wonder what sort of career change that would make?

Air Force One Charges

Bush is giving a series of speeches geared to 'explain' what's going on in Iraq, and bolster support for his vanity war. He's been revving up the biblical references, spouting 'fascism' and generally waving his hands around to try to distract everyone from what's actually going on.
"They're not political speeches," he said. "They're speeches about the future of this country, and they're speeches to make it clear that if we retreat before the job is done, this nation would become even more in jeopardy. These are important times, and I seriously hope people wouldn't politicize these issues that I'm going to talk about."
Not political speeches? Huh? Aren't they about policy? Aren't they intended to influence opinion? Aren't they a call to action from his base to support him? Aren't they aimed at the public?

They're political speeches.

No matter what you say they are, the fact is, they are political. Of course they are. And he hopes that people won't politicize these issues? Just what kind of issues does he think they are, if not political?

But if anyone disagrees with him, he can accuse them of "being political", which he is wont to do. Oh no, he's not political, but if you actually expect answers from him than you are obviously political and partisan and unpatriotic.

Of course, by claiming that they aren't not political speeches, all of the travel is basically billed to the US taxpayer. All those Air Force One jaunts across the country are on the taxpayer's dime instead of being paid for by the GOP.

Is that a Loafer or a Mule?

A bit closer to home, local gubernatorial candidate Bob Beauprez once again stuck his foot in his mouth, big time. He's always been an ass, but apparently he is willing to say just about anything to try to get points.

Last week, he was discussing his position on abortion during an interview with a local radio station. As part of his "platform", he announced that a) abortion is wrong and b) that black women have an appalling number of abortions. This was his "support" for his statement:
"I've seen numbers as high as 70 percent, maybe even more, in the African-American community that I think is just appalling,"
Apparently he just pulled that number right out of his ass, in an attempt to gain support from "his base". It has no basis in reality, and only serves to show that he is as bigot as well. Local African-American groups are not accepting his recent apology, either -- they think (and rightly so) that this is just a glimpse of what he is really thinking and not a gaff at all.

It's bad enough that Beauprez repeated the 70 percent number - which he apparently "heard somewhere" but didn't bother to actually check. But what does it say about him that he ever believed it? He can't even be bothered to confirm something he "heard" because he seems to want it to be true so that it can serve his purposes.

The facts? Only 4% of Coloradans are black. They account for about 5% of the abortions in the state. Just what sort of political hay did Bob think he was going to make on the back of such a small group in his home state? Or did he just bring up the spector of "blacks" because it will rile up the neanderthals who support him?

Bob claims that he he "fits colorado" and should be governor (note that this guy is already a congressman). Well, Mr. Beauprez, you certainly don't "fit" me and you don't even come close to representing what we believe in. Perhaps you thought that by insulting minority groups you might gain some points with the whitest of the white? Well, most of us find that entire concept repugnant, and we find you repugnant, too. It might appeal to his right-wing, regressive base to blame the ills of society on "others" who are different, but for most of us, it's simply proof that he's the wrong person for the job.

He needs to sit down and shut up.